Biggest mistake ever made by MHSAA

With the high school basketball districts and regionals currently going on, I often think back to when this was truly the sporting event of the year in the Upper Peninsula.

It was an iconic event because the tournaments were usually held in bigger venues.

The practice of scheduling the tourneys at mostly high school locations has greatly diminished the event.

High school hockey hasn’t been affected. All local schools have competed at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena since 1971. 

Even some downstate teams compete in later rounds in college arenas like Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Western Michigan and others.

But hockey is played at far fewer state schools and that factors in.

Now, I have nothing against having districts being hosted by high schools. If the school has a big enough gym to accommodate the fans, it’s a good idea.

But there was a time between 1950 and 1980 when the majority of local districts were staged at Sherman Gym on the Michigan Tech campus.

There were plenty of highlights at old Sherman Gym.

Stephenson’s Mel Peterson, described by many basketball observers as the greatest player ever in the Upper Peninsula, led the Eagles to a U.P. championship and later a state title in his one and only season.

And you had the great Chassell teams between 1956-58 that never lost a game and captured three state crowns. Greats like Don Mattson, Terry Pokela and Tom Peters were worth the price of admission.

The districts, for the most part, were then held at the new MTU Student Development Complex.

There were a few regional tourneys held in Houghton after Hedgcock Fieldhouse on the NMU campus closed in the early 2000s.

Hedgcock, which could hold up to 5,000 fans, hosted all class regionals for forty years and was a truly unique place.

Ask any player who ever had the chance to play there and they’ll told you what kind of atmosphere it had.

For fans, it was also a chance to go to Marquette and spend Thursday, Friday and Saturday watching hoops. An added bonus was that WLUC-TV always televised the finals

But when the MHSAA mandated — with the approval of the U.P. Sports Council — that all games be held in high school gyms a decade or so ago, that was all lost.

Larger schools like Escanaba, Marquette, Kingsford and Lakeview Arena in Negaunee now host regionals for boys and girls.

Those gyms have been good to some local schools (Houghton, Calumet and Chassell girls and Dollar Bay boys) in recent years.

But wouldn’t it have been great for more local fans to been been able to see those successes?

I think so and what’s why this is an issue that I will continue to talk about ….